A Fish Story about Smoked Ciscoes
Many years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, my father took me on a fishing trip to Canada with two of his buddies. Our plane landed in Duluth, MN where we had to rent a car and drive several hours to a small Canadian village called Ignace. From there, the plan was to hop on a pontoon plane which would take us further into the woods where the fishing would be so good, my father promised, “you’ll have to stand behind a tree to bait your hook!” It turned out the fishing wasn’t so good that week, but the companionship was unforgettable. On the road between Duluth and Ignace, we passed a small hand-painted sign tacked to a tree that said “SMOKED CISCOES: $2 each.” My father and his buddies, all of whom had been raised in the Midwest, reacted to this sign with unrestrained glee and turned off the road to follow the sign. “Let me get this straight,” I said from the back seat of the car, as it bounced along on what was not so much a road as it was two tire tracks leading into the wilderness. “You’re going to buy FISH from some guy in the woods? And you’re going to eat it? Are you nuts?” My father said, “You don’t have to eat any if you don’t want, son.” They bought the ciscoes from a guy who looked like he’d played a prominent role in the film “Deliverance.” My dad and his buddies ate the fish directly off them plain brown paper in which they were wrapped. After refusing several offers to try some I finally relented and took one tiny bite. Maybe I was just hungry. But even to this day, I recall it being one of the most divine and flavorful things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Oily and rich, but not the least bit fishy. Fortunately, my dad – a wise father if there ever was one – had the foresight to purchase four of them. So I sat in the back seat of the car, unwrapped my cisco, and enjoyed one of the finest culinary experiences of my life. Never had one before. Never had one since. So my question is: Where do you suppose you could find a “Smoked Cisco” in Washington, DC?
P.S. I’m willing to pay more than $2 now.
There used to be a fair number of those types places along the shore.
One that went a bit more commercial and stayed excellent was Russ Kendall's Smoked Fish north of Duluth (not far from the fabulous Betty's Pies). Incredible smoked fish. Lake trout, whitefish salmon and ciscoes.
I believe I've seen ciscoes at Sniders in Silver Spring. Their smoke whitefish is very good.
I don't know if Kendall's ships, but Morey's does whiting as well as whitefish that is available through the mail.
There's a little place in Chesapeake Beach that sells smoked fish and will smoke fish you bring in for you. I can't remember the name, but I'll try to find it.
I am not sure but I think smoked ciscoes are sold in jewish style delis as smoked chubs. You may want to try a chub to see how they compare. I love the chub.